Tech Marketers: Build Trust..Publish It At Least 3 Times

April 8, 2010

Trust is the foundation for all business relationships, I am pretty sure no one will argue this thought.

The most common and effective form of building trust is usually the one-on one meeting between your sales team and the customers and prospects. In fact, for those that remember, this is how the tech business really established itself. The tech buyers would meet with a variety of sales people from various technology companies. They would be handed brochures and reports, sometimes even case studies. Most of the collateral was real techy, but the sales team would establish the trust through conversation and their ability to demonstrate their expertise.

So why am I talking about this. Because this doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Tech buyers are doing their own research ( most of it on-line) to scope out providers that can deliver the solutions they seek. The tech buyers have taken more control over how the relationship can start, leaving your sales team limited opportunity to establish this trust. In fact, now we have business decision makers also in the process that need to trust your technology solutions as well as your company. Again, with limited opportunity to actually meet with them on-on-one doesn’t usually occur until they are half way down the decision-making process.

This is where Tech marketing folks come in to the picture. With limited opportunities to have ono-on-one interactions with tech buyers, the marketing department needs to create the conversations and build trust through their marketing efforts. This is not easy and requires a dedicated strategy to nurture the prospects and reaffirm the customers against buying decisions. Messaging must address the targets business issues and be delivered in a transparent tone. I have said it before and will say it agin, Content is King. Your messaging must be relevant and include proof ponts to build your credibility.

Most importantly, the frequency of your marketing needs to be ramped up. More frequency is critical to ensure your tech company has a commanding market presence and is easily accessable during the tech buyers search.

This point is further supported by A recently released Edelman the 2010 Barometer Report. Not that all of the information is geared towards B2B or even technology, but it does have something quite useful for tech marketers. Based on their annual survey, the report suggests that 60% of those surveyed need to receive a companies message 3-5 times in order for the message to become trusted. Those surveyed also suggested when asked which stakeholder should be most important to a CEO’s business decisions, 52 percent said that “all stakeholders are equally important”

So what does this tell us about building trust on how marketing teams can influence it.

First, beyond the relevance of your content, the types of messages you  build in your content need to come from different voices of your company, sales, marketing, your ceo, your tech experts etc..

Secondly, using multi-channel delivery can be very effective as long as you ensure you have frequency built into your plan.

Trust is something that is earned over time and common logic will tell you that frequent and consistent conversations with your prospects will allow you to build the trust you seek among your customer based.


Tech Marketers: Content Will Align Your Sales Teams

April 5, 2010

Well the first quarter has moved quickly in the technology sector and business has shown signs of renewal. But technology marketers still have many challenges ahead of them. The marketing budgets at technology companies still have not been fully restored and probably will not be for some time. The true challenge for tech marketers will be to transform your department to better serve and support your sales teams with strategies and tactics to nurture the tech buyers.

I have been meaning to share a quick summary of  ITSMA’s 2010 State of the Marketing Profession Address authored by President Dave Munn and Senior Vice President Julie Schwartz. Together these two share some great insight that identifies areas for improvement with tech marketers. Once again, it comes down to creating relevant content, a theme  I have been harping on for quite some time.

With tech marketers still strapped for budgets, all of us in the industry need to “do more with less”. I know it sounds cliché, but the CIO’s and tech buyers out there have provided the two authors with some actionable insights for all of us tech marketing folks to consider as we think through marketing strategies. For starters, below is a quick chart that summarizes top priorities of CIO’s in the 2010 year.

http://www.itsma.com/images/research/1003_strategistgraph.gif

It no surprise that enabling the sales force is in the top position. The discussion around aligning marketing and sales teams are becoming real corporate efforts at this point. Sales enablement allows the marketing teams to step towards this objective by supporting the sales departments with relevant marketing messages and tools so the sales force can generate and close leads. Isn’t this what the marketing team is supposed to be doing? In fact all three of the top priorities identified in this report can move an organization towards more sales and marketing alignment as these three focus areas tend to be shared goals of both departments.

Getting there will require marketing teams to alter their approach as tech buyers have become more savvy:

The Itsma report suggests that Tech Buyer behavior is changing .

The buyers have become, More powerful and knowledgeable, More selective, More Value conscious and seek insight and ideas
–Only 50% of buyers think the content and vehicles providers use to bring them new ideas are effective

For tech marketers to succeed, they will need to transform their approach by creating a content generation engine that:
–Integrate sales and marketing via the marriage of CRM and marketing automation

–Invest in marketing analytics to predict and improve results

By generating relevant content and integrated campaigns to generate leads you can support and enable your sales team to move your prospects towards the close. Reaching the shared goals of both departments and moving closer to alignment.


Tech Marketers: Dedicated Budgets For Content Development Are Rising

February 11, 2010

As a technology marketer, you should understand that content is the core of your integrated marketing activities. Tech buyers continue to consume information during their search and selection activities. Without having relevant information for these tech buyers, you’re risking your relationship and credibility among this target audience.

Just a reminder: Smart content marketing is a marketing technique for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined target audience. Instead of pitching your products or services with constant self-referential brand messages, content marketing offers the promise of information, making your buyers more informed. And if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their loyalty and business.

Your organization should have a content development plan in place and if you don’t, you should create the process quickly as many other business and technology marketing teams are already realizing the benefits of well planned content development. In fact, a recent article in B2B Magazine details a January 2010 study of business marketers and found that 59% of respondents plan to increase their content marketing budgets this year, up from 56% last year and 42% in 2008.

The share of total marketing budgets going to content marketing will increase to an average of 33% this year, up from 29% two years ago.

Regarding which channels companies are using for content marketing, the top platform is social media, which 72% of marketers are using. Other top channels are: e-newsletters (63%), blogs (63%), white papers (48%), article marketing (48%), case studies (46%), online video (42%), custom in-person events (31%) and microsites (31%).

Well planned content can enhance an integrated marketing effort ensuring your messages are delivered with trusted vehicles (in a few different ways) and over time, this consistent messaging will allow for better audience comprehension.

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Tech Marketers: CIOs Want To Create Value

February 5, 2010

It’s a given that today’s CIOs must use information technology to support and enhance business goals. Organizations continue to raise expectations towards how the CIOs will create value for the organization while enhancing business processes and containing IT costs. This is a tough challenge and puts quite a lot of pressure on the CIO audience. But here lies the opportunity for technology marketers. By developing messages that are relevant to this current CIO mindset and demonstrating how your technology solutions will create the value sought by the CIO, you become more effective in your marketing efforts.

Marketing your technology solutions with messages focused merely on cost reduction will not breakthrough in today’s economy. Almost every marketing message is talking about cost reduction, so how can your message standout? Map your message to demonstrate how your solution will extend across the entire value chain of the organization like streamlining internal processes, restructuring operations, innovative ideas to make the business more agile and responsive, integration of the partner ecosystem such as suppliers, customers, service providers etc. These can all be messages that prove out your organization’s innovation, and how the CIO can bring value to their organization.

The role of the CIO has transformed to a value creator and an innovator, rather than being a mere ‘techie’ in the organization so your messages need to support this shift in thinking to get on their radar and be considered. Try to rise above the routine and mundane cost-saving messages and specific IT function and align your messaging to the CIOs  need to create value for their organizations.

Of course this will take a few meetings with your sales team and product teams to gather the raw information needed to create relevant messaging. So I have included some starter thoughts about the top CIO priorities for 2010 as gathered by Gartner. Use these to map your messages that relate toward overall business value and you may have a better shot at getting to the table.

Top 10 Business and Technology Priorities in 2010

Top 10 Business Priorities Ranking Top 10 Technology Priorities Ranking
Business process improvement 1 Virtualization 1
Reducing enterprise costs 2 Cloud computing 2
Increasing the use of information/analytics 3 Web 2.0 3
Improving enterprise workforce effectiveness 4 Networking, voice and data communications 4
Attracting and retaining new customers 5 Business Intelligence 5
Managing change initiatives 6 Mobile technologies 6
Creating new products or services (innovation) 7 Data/document management and storage 7
Targeting customers and markets more effectively 8 Service-oriented applications and architecture 8
Consolidating business operations 9 Security technologies 9
Expanding current customer relationships 10 IT management 10

Source: Gartner EXP (January 2010)


VARs: Time To Consider Your Message

February 2, 2010

Last year a majority of the VARs slowed their marketing spending during the down economy. As we move into this new year, I would argue that many VARs are following the same plan and perhaps rightfully so as the economy still remains a bit shaky. But spending less money doesn’t necessarily mean reduced marketing — Now is a good time to review your brand.

I am encouraged to see a growing trend that I have not seen in many years among the VAR community.  Many VARs are making an effort to brand and promote their own unique value above and beyond any vendor affiliation. Creating this differentiation within a landscape that could easily be described as a commodity can only have a positive affect.  With long term goals in mind, VAR marketing must go beyond the very common messages focused on vendor certifications and the perceived benefit of  associating with these multi-billion-dollar brands. A reliance on provided vendor messaging will only hamper the ability of a VAR to communicate its point of difference in the crowded marketplace.

Tech buyers have consistently  suggested that it’s more important for a VAR to align tightly to its organizational needs by communicating more relevant expertise than to promote the Platinum, Gold or Silver level of certification they may have with any vendor.  VARs can strengthen their customer relationships by highlighting the value they deliver, communicating their deep vertical expertise or by providing above-and-beyond services for more basic infrastructure issues.  Of course, these are only a few general thoughts that demonstrate a path towards more unique messaging and must be underpinned by the VAR’s ability and not necessarily the vendor’s marketplace message.

The economy has forced many VARs to simply become better business people instead of relying on vendors for marketing differentiation and business expertise. VARs have to work hard to identify what their unique position is within the marketplace and develop their own brands to ensure they can stand out among the crowd.

The smart ones will understand that the canned messaging and marketing programs provided by these vendors…. is not a VAR identity.

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Technology and B2B Marketing Benchmarks for 2010

November 18, 2009

Planning season is continuing to heat up around marketing departments at technology organizations and many of you are looking for insights to justify your planned activities or perhaps inspire some of your upcoming marketing activities. Marketing Sherpa has recently released its annual B2B benchmarking report that I would encourage you to invest in. The report is probably the most comprehensive of its kind and addresses everything from trade shows to outsourcing and lead generation trends. There are several focus areas for technology marketing that may aid your marketing planning development.

I have listed some of the highlights below.

So the good news is that there is a lot of optimism for the upcoming year as many respondents of this study suggest that feel as thought there has been a turning point in the economy and there expectations for their business. This is good news for marketers trying to secure budgets and renew their limited marketing activity from the past two years. As the Marketing Sherpa study suggests, the expectation of better days ahead will mean a change in marketing objectives and the strategies required to achieve them for 2010. Those organizations that have learned to be efficient marketers on a lean budget will apply the lessons learned during these difficult times to become even more effective in the future.

Sales and marketing continue to debate quantity of leads over quality. Of course each of these department have performance measures that create this ever ongoing dialogue. Online search activities have become an ideal solution to balancing lead flow because, in many cases, the spigot can simply be opened or closed to control volume. The more complex challenge is controlling lead quality. This requires a much more strategic approach to optimizing not
only web pages for SEO, but in the case of paid search, carefully aligning the sequence of PPC keywords, ad listings and landing pages.

Tech Buyers are still consuming content at a rigorous pace, so whatever you are planning on doing, ensure you have outlined a smart content development process to feed into the various mead and outlets relied up on by these tech buyers. The chart below outlines the changing use of information resources by technology buyers in the past six months.

Aligning marketing and sales is still essential to creating a productive new business pipeline. As this chart demonstrates, many marketing and sales organizations are collaborating at minimum level by mutually engaging in best practices like defining what a sales-ready lead is – but few are developing a more complete process for sales to hand leads back to marketing for re-engagement and continued nurturing.

The website has also become an extremely efficient platform for integrating and automating the lead generation process. As a result, the role of a company’s website has been elevated from simply a spoke in the marketing mix wheel to the hub of the marketing strategy. While many website capabilities are being managed at a high level, or clients were at least doing a good job of managing them, the report suggests that system integration which enables the flow of leads generated on a website to the CRM system was a weak point.

 

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2010 End user sentiments from Gartner

November 16, 2009

Unable to attend this meeting, I was fortunate enough to have one of our clients pass his notes on from a recent Gartner summit regarding IT end user sentiments. The information was collected by Gartner and reflects the forward thinking of many IT buyers and decision makers for the upcoming 2010 year. Although most of these thoughts are a bit random, I always appreciate the chance to peek inside the mindsets of the tech buyers. I think the pattern here suggests that there is opportunity for tech marketers to identify how their solutions fit within the context of the current conversations.

For tech marketers to take advantage of these opportunities, you must build the content and prove out your solutions as they relate to what is on the it buyers mind.

IT end user sentiments in 2010:

*   6.9m jobs lost since 2008 in the US, and unemployment is still rising.

*   The IT industry is exiting its worst year ever.

*   Healthcare, Utilities and Government will be the first sectors to recover.

*   While the IT industry is on its way to recovery, we expect that by 2012 we will only be at 2008 revenue levels.

*   60% of CEOs surveyed think IT is holding the business back.

*   In 2009 1m servers will have their replacement delayed, which means increased risk to the enterprise.

*   The age of the IT industry’s hardware is increasing because many companies are delaying the purchases of servers, PCs, etc. So we need to plan for increased equipment failure rates.

*   The top 3 focus areas right now are cost management, growth and risk management.

*   Pattern Based Strategies—this is a hot theme, and the most profound of all.  It’s about implementing a framework that seeks models and looks for leading indicators in the marketplace and then exploits them (e.g. CPM, business analytics).

*   What’s the new normal?  Regulatory oversight will increase dramatically because of all the bailouts.

*   There will be a demand for increased accountability and transparency all the time now.

*   Increased scrutiny of IT is a good thing—it gives you more data to work with and forces you to see where IT is contributing.

*   Bloated apps portfolio is the big pink elephant in the apps space.  Apps are growing at 4-7%/year.

*   Apps portfolio management needs to reduce costs and risks.

*   IT starts with an inventory of apps (you do have one, right??!).

*   Start by assigning a business owner, use data (eg. Cost, utilization and risk) to justify its existence.

*   The “Collective” is a major force out there.  Don’t ignore it or try to control it.  It’s pervasive and galvanizes around the social network and is very influential (e.g. YouTube and Facebook).  You can’t halt it.

*   Whether the company allows it or not, people are doing social networking.

*   Don’t miss the early signals about what’s coming (e.g. Wall Street).

*   Don’t view your strategy as linear—that blinds us to emerging patterns, and that takes a behavioral problem and makes it worse with a systems problem.

*   Finance’s biggest challenge is how to forecast results.

*   Don’t ignore The Collective—it’s something we can’t ignore and it helps with early pattern detection

*   We need a performance measuring system that plans, simulates and forecasts performance at all levels of the organization.

*   Security.  Don’t try to protect yourself as much as possible.  Ask yourself what you will do to protect yourselves and what you won’t do.  You can’t protect against everything.

*   Risk management’s philosophy is to protect against reasonable threats.  Accept risk to perform well.

*   You must have Transparency for the Return to Growth in the new business environment.

*   Like IT, security must measure its impact on the business.

*   If all you focus on is cost, then everything you look at will be an expense.

*   Balance cost, risk and growth to be successful.

 

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Tech Marketers: CIOs Planning for Positive 2010

November 6, 2009

The year 2010 is looking positive for the industry as CIOs forecast their budgets and spend levels. This provides some positive news after a very difficult 2009.

The challenge for tech marketers is to ensure you have strong market presence to ensure your credibility against your tech solutions. I have suggested in previous posts that a fully integrated marketing communications plan with relevant content and messaging will be necessary for many technology companies to once again gain mind share. Let’s face it, many technology companies reduced their marketing spending last year (rightfully so) causing a much-needed dedicated effort towards rebuilding their market presence within their respective space. Now is the time to get aggressive.

Based on a recent CIO IT Economic Impact survey conducted by CIO.com to gauge how current economic conditions are impacting IT spending plans, 257 tech purchasing participants forecast very encouraging signs for the upcoming year. Some of the highlights include:

Over 70% of IT budgets will either Increase or stay the same

Question:   Will your overall IT budget increase, decrease or remain the same in the next 12 months compared to the past 12 months?

moneyspend40% Increase

34% Remain the same

26% decrease

Spending Increasing Across all Product Categories
Question: What areas will your budget increase in the next 12 months compared to the past12 months?

Picture1

New Project Spending on the Rise

Question: In the next 12 months, what percent of your total IT budget do you anticipate will be devoted to operations & maintenance related projects versus new?

budgetchart

33% Increase IT Salaries and 32% Increase Headcount in the Coming Year
staffcuts

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2009 Data Center Purchasing Trends Tech Marketers Should Know

November 3, 2009

If you are marketing your technology solutions into the data center, 2009 was a tough year. A recent report by Searchdatacenter.com surveyed 920 technology decision makers between June and September of 2009 and focused on the target’s purchase intentions.  The results confirm how the market has been reacting to the various financial pressures of the economy with the majority of respondents reporting that their data center budgets were either flat or decreased.

In my opinion, some of the highlights of the report suggest the data center as we know it today may look very different in the near future (3-4 years) as cloud computing options become more feasible. Of course, the health of these data centers are a critical component to marketing technology solutions. So understanding what the tech buyers are thinking may add value to your marketing planning, message development and content relevance.

The IT shops buying server hardware are geared towards enhancing  virtualization deployments

For IT shops that are actually spending on new servers, they’re doing so as part of server virtualization deployments. For the past few years, the top three responses to the question “What are the top three drivers for purchasing new servers?” have been: 1) Normal demand for increased capacity, 2) end of lease/life of the servers, and 3) new applications. Last year a few respondents wrote in “Virtualization” as a driver.

This year it has become the No. 1 factor for those buying servers. Nearly half the respondents said they planned to purchase hardware to enhance virtualization deployments.

Blade spending is down
13% plan to reduce blade spending. In both 2008 and this year’s survey, the same percentage of respondents don’t use blades (40%). So the reduction in blade server spending comes from respondents who spent on these servers last year.

According to the report, more IT managers have discovered the hidden cost of blades. “Many computer rooms just don’t have enough cooling for a rack of blades.” “In scale-out versus scale-up [with virtualization], respondents think scaling up [to a larger server] is just a better solution at this time.”

This may be the first sign of change in the data center environment, I am curious to what others may think.  See the full article for more info on this tepid blade server spending.

Windows rules the OS landscape
Windows Server 2008 saw a significant increase in general installations – from 23% to 45% – to the No. 2 spot behind Windows Server 2003.

The rest of the lineup stayed the same: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, followed by the Unixes: Solaris, HP-UX and AIX, respectively.

But when we asked about mission-critical workloads, Windows 2003 stayed in the No. 1 position, Windows 2008 dropped back in the pack, and Red Hat Linux jumped to No. 2. The three Unix variants stayed in the middle, but the combined Unix footprint is double the Linux market share on mission-critical applications, and it’s nearly as large as Windows Server 2003.

The survey showed a decline in the number of shops considering or using Linux. In response to the question, “Does your company use or plan to evaluate Linux on servers this year?”, 54% said ‘no’ last year; 60% said ‘no’ this year. Despite tight budgets and a down economy, Linux adoption declined rather than grew. And, in fact, respondents may view Linux adoption as risky in tough times.

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents said they would not dump Windows for Linux, versus 34% this year. The results seem to indicate that the Linux-to-Windows migration is over.

Reducing data center power is a key issue
According to the survey, data center power consumption is getting more important. The percentage of folks who said this was a major concern increased from 48% to 55% this year. While these numbers are unsurprising given the downturn in the economy and high energy costs, what is surprising is that the behavior concerning power consumption has begun to change: There was a major increase in the number of respondents whose business unit actually pays the power bill, from 37% to 53%.

28% of survey respondents don’t know whether their power bill has increased or decreased. For the respondents who are paying attention, a majority see major increases in the power bill for their data centers. 44% have seen an increase, and 19% say the increase is greater than 10%.

30% of respondents have implemented Hot-aisle/cold aisle containment (the practice of sealing hot aisles and cold aisles in a data center) and an additional 15% plan to next year.

Server virtualization spending continues, but at a sober rate
Virtualization budgets shrank only slightly. Last year 56% of respondents planned to increase spending on virtualization, and only 2% planned a decrease. This year 54% still plan to increase spending.

Click here for the complete Data Center Decisions 2009 survey results.

 

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10 strategic technologies for 2010

October 30, 2009

Smart technology marketing plans must be developed toward being relevant with the top industry issues in mind. Based on the latest Gartner symposium, cost optimization will reign in 2010 within the technology industry. CIOs have their work cut our for them as they ponder various solutions to make their enterprise more agile and elastic.  Other focus areas will include cloud computing (which will move from the discussion phase to small pilots), and process optimization around enterprise applications (ERP, customer relationship management, supply chain management) that will allow organizations to get more out of these investments.

As Marketers, your content should be developed to demonstrate how your technology solutions will integrate with these needs.

Gartner also identified the top 10 strategic technologies that will be within the mindset of tech buyers and CIOs throughout the upcoming year. The list focuses on technologies that have the “potential for significant impact on the enterprise during the next three years.” Here is the list:

1. Cloud computing. Organizations should think about how to approach the cloud in terms of using cloud services, developing cloud-based applications and implementing private cloud computing environments.

2. Advanced analytics. Real-time data analysis will enable fraud detection on one hand and prediction and simulation on the other, as organizations use data to look ahead.

3. Client computing. Enterprises need to develop a five- to eight-year client computing roadmap before making near-term decisions such as whether or how to upgrade client hardware or move to Windows 7. The progression of desktop virtualization technology and the range of devices available make this an important analysis. “Build a strategic client computing roadmap bringing all issues and devices together, or you will be following vendor roadmaps,” Cearley said.

4. IT for green. The “green” concept has moved beyond energy-efficient data centers to using IT to enable green throughout the enterprise. For example, an organization could use IT to analyze and optimize shipping of goods.

5. Reshaping the data center. A flexible “pod” model, where data center sections can be independently heated, cooled and powered, allows the organization to light up new sections only when needed.

6. Social computing. Organizations need to examine the use of social media by both internal and external constituents and figure out how to govern it. Social network analysis can be used both to detect fraud and to change business processes to boost internal efficiency.

7. Security — activity monitoring. As targeted attacks rise and cloud computing adds complexity, organizations need to identify a longer-term plan for how all of their security technologies come together. Security incident and event management devices, for example, are one approach that is becoming mainstream.

8. Flash memory. This technology, made ubiquitous by popular USB sticks, is a faster, although more expensive, storage alternative. Price drops mean it will offer a “new layer of the storage hierarchy in servers and client computers,” Gartner said.

9. Virtualization for availability. Live migration technology such as VMware Inc.’s VMotion will enable the use of virtualization for high performance, possibly displacing failover cluster software and even fault-tolerant hardware.

10. Mobile applications. Mobile is at a tipping point, given the proliferation of handheld devices and their power and storage.

If you think this list is accurate or believe that there is a technology that is missing, I would love to hear from you.

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